Speculation that Rob Gronkowski’s retirement was just a temporary thing began the moment he announced it.

That belief has been bolstered since by comments from Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Instagram breadcrumbs left by Tom Brady.

But if Gronk is planning a triumphant return in 2019, he’s got to make it by Week 13.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss pointed this out (which Mike is apt to do since he’s on this stuff like white on rice), writing, “If he isn't moved off the reserve/retired list by Week 13, he can't return at all. That rule is in place, in part, to eliminate the possibility that a player could sit out all season and then return just for the playoffs.

On Sunday, I ran into Gronk and asked whether he’d be back on the team by Thanksgiving. He indicated no, but since we were engaged in conversational grabassery, it’s hard to say that was a solid reply. And it’s probably just as hard to say whether he even knows at this point.

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He’s a week into his retirement. He looks unburdened and prepared to pursue a Barkley-esque, man of the people role. He’s not dwelling on when — or if — he’ll be back.

But he’s clearly left the door open for a return enough to inspire Brady to joke that there may be more touchdown receptions for Gronk.

 

Rosenhaus even laid out scenarios the day after the retirement announcement.

"Rob is 29 years old. He's still a very young man. It wouldn't shock me if he has a change of heart, if he feels great and he decides that he wants to play football," Rosenhaus said.

"But this is just me talking. This isn't Rob. And I don't want to create any unnecessary expectations. Rob is a very unique personality. If the team was struggling or they needed him at some point next year, and let's just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said 'Rob, I need you,' I wouldn't be shocked if he came back to play a few games."

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The chance exists that, Gronk being Gronk, he’s too nice to tell everyone to screw and leave him alone, he’s done. We all have ulterior motives for wanting to see a return — Brady, Rosenhaus, those of us in the media. In every case, it’s good for our own businesses.

Is it good for Gronk? Given how glum he was at points last year and how concerned he became about his body and weekly recovery, probably not.

But until the door slams shut, speculation will flow freely. Until December 1.

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